The Destiny of Dead Trees

November 2, 2022 · 1 minute read
The Destiny of Dead Trees

This week’s article idea came to me after talking with one of my most favorite tree lovers and tree huggers in the Richmond Area (Anna Aquino). I can’t remember how we got into the conversation, but we started to talk about the benefits of dead trees, dead limbs, and also leaving dead limbs on the ground.

Anna introduced me to a website from The Cavity Conservation Initiative: Their mission is to encourage the safe retention of dead and dying trees as habitat for cavity-nesting birds and other wildlife. Here is a quote from the group’s Director, Gillian Martin: “When we haul away a dead tree needlessly, we take away half its life’s destiny.” I’m not sure if it was Anna’s passion or just the word destiny, but I have started to look at trees a little differently.

Before I go on, I wanted to give you my disclaimer: Not all dead trees or dead limbs should remain. Dead trees and limbs can harm people or property. A certified arborist who is tree risk-assessment-qualified can help you decide if your tree, or part of your tree, poses an unacceptable risk because of targets.

dead tree imprint on forest floor

So, when appropriate, here are just a few reasons for leaving some dead limbs, snags, and dead trees for wildlife:

  • Dead trees are homes to countless insects, birds, and mammals
  • Dead trees are nursery for many species of birds
  • Dead trees provide roosting and visibility for birds of prey
  • Dead trees and tree parts provide a living space for mushrooms, which in turn provide food and shelter for animals and insects
  • Dead limbs on the ground can provide shelter for small mammals, insects, amphibians and reptiles
  • Dead trees across streams can provide an area of shelter for fish in the shade, but also an area for animals, like raccoons or bears, to fish

Dog climbing out of a forest stream

  • Large dead limbs can also be places where nesting birds build their nest for protection from predators and the elements
  • Dead limbs or trees on the ground can help with erosion and breakdown to add organic matter to the soil

Tree stump in forest

I’d love to hear your stories of dead trees or dead tree-parts you have left and observed on your
property. Feel free to email me with any questions at